Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned opposition parties not to question the role of President Tayyip Erdogan during coalition talks starting on Monday, saying to do so would sabotage efforts to form a new government.
Opposition parties have made clear they want Erdogan to keep out of daily politics if they take part in any coalition government, a shot across the bows of a man bent on turning the largely figurehead presidency into a powerful executive post.
“Opening to question the legitimacy of our president or the respectability of his office would lead to the sabotage of the coalition talks from the start,” Milliyet newspaper quoted Davutoglu as saying in comments to reporters on his plane back from a visit to Bosnia over the weekend.
The AK Party, which Erdogan founded, lost its parliamentary majority in a June 7 election for the first time since it came to power in 2002, forcing it to seek a junior coalition partner or face the prospect of a fresh election.
Despite a constitutional ban on the head of state engaging in party politics, Erdogan turned the vote into a referendum on his own ambitions of forging an executive presidency, campaigning for constitutional change.
The outcome frustrated those ambitions, at least for now, and plunged Turkey into political uncertainty not seen since the unstable coalition governments of the 1990s.
Despite Erdogan’s repeated calls for a new government to be formed quickly, some senior officials have suggested the best interests of both him and the AK Party could be in the failure of coalition talks and a new election.
Opposition parties have made it clear they would not accept Erdogan continuing to chair cabinet meetings, as he has done since taking over the presidency last year. They argue that this exceeds his constitutional powers as president.
The first round of coalition talks is due to begin later on Monday, with Davutoglu meeting Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the secularist opposition CHP, Turkey’s second-biggest party.
A deal with the Islamist-rooted AKP would mean bridging a wide ideological divide, and Davutoglu indicated that the negotiations would be difficult, expressing concern about Kilicdaroglu’s recent comments to reporters that he may not serve in cabinet even if an agreement is reached.
“From the first day, contradictory statements are constantly emerging,” Davutoglu said. “A serious partnership necessitates walking together. Those who don’t fully shoulder responsibility will lose.”
The AK Party won 258 seats in the June 7 election, ahead of the CHP on 132 seats, while the nationalist MHP and pro-Kurdish HDP won 80 seats each. Davutoglu was due to meet the MHP leader on Tuesday and HDP leaders on Wednesday.
The Hurriyet daily reported Davutoglu as saying that if coalition talks were unsuccessful there would be early elections, from which the AKP would benefit the most.